Genre: Action-Adventure
Year: 2013
Developed by: WB Games Montreal
Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PS3, Wii U, XBOX 360
Feeling Like: I am the prequel

This is the worst Batman game on the 500 and it’s still at #214.

I wouldn’t consider myself a comic book guy; I didn’t read them as a kid, but I sure as hell was glued to the TV when X-Men was on, or anything remotely involving superheroes. Batman: The Animated Series was my gateway drug to possibly the coolest superhero of them all.

Since then I’ve tried to see every Batman movie, read every comic and play every game featuring him. The majority are of extremely high quality. I’m uncertain if the nature of the character leads to creative freedom, or the people in charge really know what they’re doing but I’m rarely, if ever, let down.

Much like Tomb Raider, the first few hours had me convinced that Batman: Arkham Origins would be the rare misfire.

It was clear that coming off the heels of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City that this was a step back. Reviews were solid enough, but the freshness of the package, the flow of combat, the dedication to the source material, the inclusion of the original voice actors and the lack of fat would be very difficult to overcome when WB Games Montreal went a slightly different route than Rocksteady.

I get it. When you come in hot and produce two of the best comic book products ever, where do you go from there? My old theatre director told me to never come into a scene at 100%, because you have nowhere to go.

So I can hardly blame the developers for making an “inferior” Batman game. It’s like pizza – a “bad” Batman game is still goddamn great. One slice, please.

I don’t want to get into the specifics of the Asylum guts here, the other two deserve those more so I’ll just go into what I liked and didn’t like about this one.

You’re Batman. You can beat the tar out of bad guys either head on, or by using stealth. Since I hate stealth in video games, I was pleasantly surprised to find stealth is really fun here. Laying traps and quickly knocking out guys is a thrill. I never got tired of it. Hell, I REPLAYED a stealth section because I thought I could do it better. The mechanics, tools and level layouts are that tightly designed that I voluntarily subjected myself to playing more stealth than I had to. It’s a Gotham miracle.

Still, a few irritations reside. The Deathstroke boss fight drove me nuts. It shouldn’t be that difficult a boss fight, but I found the QTEs and precise timing totally flummoxing. I nearly gave up right then and there. I’m glad I pushed through, but it was rough goings early on.

The city itself felt a bit empty and lifeless. The snowy backdrop was gorgeous, but if I had to go back across that stupid bridge one more time…

The Shock Gauntlets are also a cool addition, but seem cheap in retrospect. The previous Batman Arkham games equipped you with enough options and tricks to ensure you always had the right option when fighting enemies of varying strengths and weaknesses, but it meant choosing the right tool for the job. The Shock Gauntlets just mean you get to punch through everything which can be satisfying, but not as rewarding.

And finally, no Mark Hammill or Kevin Conroy. The replacement voice actors do a terrific job (Troy Baker in particular as the Joker is a standout), but it’s not the same. If I hadn’t looked it up, I doubt I would have noticed. But I did and that special connection to the animated series was severed, and so I have to dock it a few points.

I guess there’s no way to separate Batman: Arkham Origins from its predecessors, which is a shame because in a bubble it’s a damned good time. You’re Bruce Wayne, you’re the dopest comic book hero masquerading as a vigilante beating up bad guys with kung fu moves, armor, gadgets and fear. You’re a ninja billionaire predator of crime. The story is great, filled with classic Batman villains who chew the scenery and threaten the city. You can perch on top of buildings while you watch your terrified thugs freak out beneath you.

How can that not be fun?

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